Update: This story was updated at 10:50 AM with comment from Rotondi.
A group of 65 members of the Sussex County Democratic Committee are demanding the resignation of county chair Katie Rotondi, alleging the “environment became poisonous.”
“She punished members who dared to question her, micro-managed everything and was verbally abusive,” three Democratic municipal chairs – Sally Goodson of Hardyston, Lisa Anderson of Vernon, and Sally Larson of Sparta said in a statement. “She frequently yelled, cursed and played people against one another.”
Goodson has resigned as executive director and Anderson, Larson and Hardyston Democratic vice chair Joan Jacobsen have left the executive board.
Rotondi told the New Jersey Globe that there have been personality clashes with Goodson, whom she inherited as executive director after taking over for Leslie Hahn.
“I’m not going to be bullied into stepping down,” Rotondi said. “There’s not enough of us here for infighting.”
She said has the support of a majority of her county committee.
Rotondi’s term is not up until June 2021.
A no-confidence letter signed by 65 party leaders says that they will all quit their posts unless Rotondi resigns.
“The toxicity in New Jersey’s political environment is not exclusively men abusing their power. In this instance, it was a woman who made the conditions unbearable,” the statement said. “We are prepared to walk away.”
The Democrats allege that Rotondi “lied before she became County Chair and misrepresented herself.”
“There have been financial improprieties,” they said.
The letter says it has become clear that Rotondi lacked critical leadership skills specifically regarding integrity, decision-making, and lack of respect for some of the SCDC members, volunteers, political candidates, and elected officials.”
“Her public actions caused much friction between us with our political allies and friends; both locally and statewide,” the letter said. “She has prioritized her personal interests above the interests of the SCDC.”
According to some Democrats, Rotondi refuses to listen to others in her organization.
“She does not take criticism or mistakes calmly. We feel she has little respect for political protocol, and does not meet nor prioritize important requirements needed for her duties as Chairperson,” the no-confidence letter said.
They claim Rotondi is “unprepared for meetings and events and her consistent tardiness displays a lack of respect to all who make the time and effort to fulfill their obligations.”
“Our County has atrophied under her tenure and this year is too critical for us to not take quick and decisive action,” the 65 party officials said.
Rotondi said that Goodson and others sought to scuttle an open convention she is holding to endorse candidates for the June 2020 primary.
The Democrats say they were never told about videos Rotondi posted online prior to her becoming county chair.
“The videos were discovered and distributed widely online by a Republican operative throughout Sussex County bringing embarrassment and disgrace to the Sussex County Democratic Organization,” the letter said.
The videos were comedy, Rotondi said, noting that she’s been an actress and comedy performer for about ten years.